I have had so many memorable conversations with my doctors over the past 12 years but one that sticks out in my mind was talking to my gastroenterologist when I was in the hospital following my first surgery. I had ulcerative colitis for two years at that point when I decided that it was time to have my colon removed. I had a total colectomy and a Jpouch made in one step. I had a severe wound infection a day later that needed to be re opened at my bedside. I never really healed after that operation. My slow progress and lack of appetite was being attributed to the stress of the wound infection and an “eating disorder.”
After almost five months of being in agony, spiking very high fevers, and being full after eating one skittle, a cat scan finally showed that I had fistulas throughout my entire Jpouch. This was causing my pelvic area to be filled with abscesses. I had infection overtaking my entire body and because everyone thought I was just afraid to eat and my body was adjusting after my severe wound infection, it wasn’t detected until months later. I was admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital over Thanksgiving where they put drains in and gave me heavy duty antibiotics.
After the holiday was over and I was settled in my room with the drain and IV in, my gastroenterologist came to see me. My parents had called her numerous times when I wasn’t doing well and she repeatedly told them that it was not uncommon for someone who had the type of surgery I did to develop an eating disorder. Prior to the fistulas being discovered, I went to see her weighing only 95lbs (from 115). When she saw me, she proceeded to give my parents a nasty look and go on and on about how in the world they could let me get down to the weight I was. So, when she came into my room it had been about a month since I saw her. She asked what was going on and when my dad and I told her everything that had happened, she took one look at me, said “huh” and left the room. That was the last time I ever heard from her.
I later realized that fistulas were indicative of crohns disease so maybe she thought my parents and I would pick up on that fact. That was the last conversation I had with Dr. Nanci Pittman. I had been through a lot with her over the two years prior to my surgery. I never understood how someone could respond the way she did and then just walk out never to be heard from again. I wrote her a letter a few months ago but never sent it. The letter wasn’t even really about me since this was in the past. I wrote to her reminding her briefly of what happened and then went on to tell her how she needs to realize that the things she does and says matters and sticks with patients. She is a pediatric gastroenterologist so not only does she have to deal with patients suffering from one of the most devastating diseases I know, but she has to deal with kids! In the letter, I wrote to her about how her words stuck with me and tried to make her understand just how big of an impression she makes on people. I wanted her to know that I will never forget some of the things she has said and done. I will never forget her essentially abandoning me when I needed a familiar face in the hospital the most.
This last conversation with my gastroenterologist is something that will stay with me always; probably because I never got any closure. I have made my peace and said whatever I needed to say to other medical personnel I have come across that didn’t do right by me. But for some reason it just never felt like the right time to confront her. I am actually rethinking sending that letter for the sake of her current and future patients.